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Van der Poel fancies his chances over Van Aert at Cyclocross Worlds

Cycling News logo Cycling News 30/01/2023 Stephen Farrand
Mathieu Van Der Poel in action © Getty Images Mathieu Van Der Poel in action

Mathieu van der Poel has predicted that he has a 50-50 chance of beating eternal cyclocross rival Wout van Aert at next weekend’s UCI Cyclocross World Championships, suggesting the weather and their form on the day will decide who pulls on the rainbow jersey. 

As Wielerflits recalled recently, Van der Poel and Van Aert have clashed ten times at the cyclocross Worlds, first as juniors in 2012 when the Dutchman won the title and then again in 2014, when Van Aert won the Under 23 title. They have fought in seven different elite races, with Van der Poel winning four titles to Van Aert’s three.      

Van der Poel’s recent struggles with back pain indicated that the Belgian could equal the score on Sunday but Van der Poel appeared back to his best when he won the final round of the World Cup in Besançon, France on Sunday, responding to Van Aert’s dominance in Saturday's Flandriencross in Belgium. With 2022 world champion Tom Pidcock not racing this year, the world title seems a two-rider battle between the two biggest names in cyclocross.

Van der Poel was downbeat about his chances in the New Year but now he is growing in confidence.

“My chances seem fifty-fifty to me, but Wout has had the upper hand a number of times this season,” van der Poel said after his win in Besançon. 

“Hopefully I can put up a fight and we are really evenly matched. I want to ride my best 'cross of the season at the World Championships.”

Van der Poel and Van Aert have always been closely matched, with the Belgian arguably able to produce more power in the mud, while Van der Poel is recognised as having more cyclocross prowess. 

This year their abilities, their fitness, the weather, and the conditions of the Hoogerheide course will all play a part in what should be a close and thrilling race. Van der Poel’s father hails from Hoogerheide and has helped design the course to remove many of the 180-degree turns that aggravate his son's back. But the course can be fast and in the Dutchman's favour when dry, but heavy in the wet, swinging it towards his rival.

"The World Championships will depend a lot on the weather conditions," Van der Poel predicted. Forecasts call for rain during the week but a sunny weekend.

“I am happy with my form. Now I’ll try to rest up and do some short training sessions. Hopefully I will be in the best shape at the start in Hoogerheide.” 


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